Last week I went to New Orleans, which was absolutely beautiful, insane and exhausting all at once. I saw some of the most ridiculous outfits, danced on stage at a bar in a pug onesie, and…well, ate non-vegan food a few times. Truth is, this isn’t the first time I’ve deliberately ‘cheated’ my vegan lifestyle. Scared to reveal my sins to anyone other than close friends and family who I know wouldn’t judge, I’ve mostly kept these occurrences private. However, I believe airing my dirty laundry will help me atone, and also put others who have occasionally broken their veganism at ease. (God, I’m such a good samaritan!!)
So here is my confession.
My first offense was May 2015, when I went out to lunch with my boss from a previous internship. During the time we worked together, I was a meat lover with no inhibitions to any type of food. So when we met to catch up, he took me to a French restaurant known for its seafood and steak frites. We started chatting about my last year of college, graduation, and what I wanted to do next. Then he started recommending dishes to me– the sea bass, salmon, and steak were all excellent choices, he told me. I nodded along, yes, those all sound delicious. I didn’t have it in me to tell him I no longer eat animal products. I thought it would disappoint him in some way. So what did I do? I ordered the sea bass. And he was right– it was delightful. I justified it by telling myself it was one of the best sea bass dishes I’ve had. Yet, I was embarrassed I had broken my veganism for no reason other than that I didn’t want to disappoint my boss, which seems even more ridiculous when I think about the fact that he probably would not have cared or taken it personally at all.
My second offense occurred late July, when I had a piece of ice cream cake my coworkers bought me for my birthday. (I also wrote about this in a past blog post.) I did it mainly to avoid being rude by refusing to eat something that was bought specifically for me, but I felt guilty nonetheless. I’ve forgiven myself since, but at the time I remember feeling dirty and disappointed in myself. I’ve now reached the conclusion that it’s ok to break your veganism when others’ feelings are involved.
I sinned once again in the fall, around the time that I decided I wanted to be more flexible with veganism. (You can read about my experience here; it’s the same post as the one linked above.) I didn’t want to be as strict or restrictive, and wanted to define veganism for myself. I concluded that if I ever felt the urge to eat an animal product, I would allow myself to do it. So, later that week when I went out on a tinder date (lol) to a Latin American seafood restaurant, I ate ceviche and fish ribs. Both were delicious and I really didn’t have any regrets. I felt a bit of shame for acting so selfishly and carelessly, but it didn’t weigh on my conscience too much. I think a part of me knew I needed to do that to get the whole ‘I want to do as I please and not stick to the vegan label’ notion out of my system.
Now we’re all caught up to this past week, when I sinned in NOLA. All of the offenses transpired on my last full day there. Offense #1 occurred after my friends and I decided to try the spiciest hot sauce in the world, made with the four hottest peppers on earth– habanero, ghost, moruga scorpion and reaper peppers (we even had to sign a waver to try it). It was seriously SO FREAKING SPICY, we all stumbled out of the store crying, shaking, feeling some sort of weird high, sweating, feeling ALL the feelings. I had underestimated the power of hot peppers– I never knew my body could react to spiciness the way it did. We ran around like chickens with their heads cut off, searching desperately for milk. We found a bar, went in, and frantically (and somewhat dramatically) asked for a glass of milk. I thought I would be ok without any milk and assumed the pain would decline naturally, but the spiciness kept building. My tongue was madly burning, and I was shaky, so I decided I would let the milk slosh around in my mouth for a bit and then I’d spit it out. I felt a little guilty for giving in to the pain, but I figured if I was objectively treating the milk as a base to counteract the acidity, it was ok.
After that debacle, we headed to a seafood restaurant for dinner. There were two entrees on the menu that I could choose from– the veggie burger or the vegetarian pasta. Sigh. There are few things sadder than going to a restaurant and deciding between two items that were probably just slapped on the menu to provide something for non-meat eaters. The restaurant touts itself as serving the freshest Louisiana and Gulf seafood available (which makes it more OK to eat, right??…), so when my friends ordered a dozen oysters as an appetizer, I decided to have one while I waited for my veggie burger to arrive. I figured I’m in New Orleans, it’s my last meal here, and it’s local, so I may as well make something good out of this dinner. Honestly, of all the animal products out there, I feel least bad about eating mollusks. I know they’re living organisms and that they move, feel pain, and are important to the ecosystem, but somehow I’d rather eat mollusks than other living sea creatures.
My final offense came after dinner, when we went to Cafe Du Monde and I had a couple bites of a beignet. This was also justified under the ‘I’m in New Orleans, I should try their staple foods while I’m here’ sentiment. The funniest part is, I, the one who shouldn’t even be eating the beignets, ended up being the one to buy them since I was the only one who had cash at the cash-only joint. However, this time the food didn’t quite prove worth the sin. The beignets, while tasty, were really just funnel cakes in square form. I couldn’t justify eating them the same way I could the other times… but I guess I wouldn’t have known what I missed/didn’t miss if I never tried it.
I suppose what I’m trying to say through this long rambling is that it’s OK, at least in my opinion, to go against the vegan dogma and act selfishly at times. You’re still doing much more good to the treatment of animals, the environment, and your health than 99% of Americans. I think it’s also important to realize your feelings and thoughts aren’t going to remain static all the time. What you once believed in so completely and strongly may not feel as important to you at other times in your life. Let those contrasting thoughts in, absorb them, reflect on them, and carry on. There is no Vegan God, you’re not going to go to hell for breaking your veganism, and honestly, the worst that’ll happen is you’ll get some hate from the vegan community. But you do you! H8rs gon h8. We’re all at different points in our lives. Although it’s difficult, it’s imperative that we try not to judge anyone– including ourselves.